Re­mark­able year for Aus­tralian for­est in­dus­try -

Com­mit­ment to forestry sec­tor, now and into the fu­ture

Australian Forests and Timber - - Front Page - By Sen­a­tor Anne Rus­ton As­sis­tant Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources

2017 has been a re­mark­able year for the Aus­tralian for­est in­dus­try and I con­grat­u­late ev­ery­one in­volved in ev­ery as­pect of the sup­ply chain. It is a grow­ing in­dus­try that de­liv­ers eco­nomic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes and ben­e­fits for the Aus­tralian com­mu­nity – and is con­tin­u­ally im­prov­ing, de­vel­op­ing and in­no­vat­ing.

The vol­ume and value of logs har­vested in 2016–17 hit record lev­els with 32.8 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres of logs har­vested worth $2.5 bil­lion. All of this by an in­dus­try that di­rectly em­ploys over 67,000 Aus­tralians and makes an an­nual $23.6 bil­lion con­tri­bu­tion to our econ­omy.

One of the driv­ers for suc­cess is how well the in­dus­try is able to in­no­vate, from grow­ing wood in plan­ta­tions and sus­tain­ably man­aged na­tive forests, through to pro­vid­ing fin­ished prod­ucts on the shelves and in our homes.

To sup­port in­no­va­tion in the for­est prod­ucts area we’re de­liv­er­ing on the Coali­tion’s elec­tion com­mit­ment to pro­vide $4 mil­lion to es­tab­lish the Na­tional In­sti­tute for For­est Prod­ucts In­no­va­tion. We’re launch­ing the Mount Gam­bier and Launce­s­ton hubs this month, and I’m de­lighted the South Aus­tralian and Tas­ma­nian govern­ments are con­tribut­ing sub­stan­tial fund­ing and re­sources to this im­por­tant ini­tia­tive.

The in­sti­tute com­ple­ments our on­go­ing in­vest­ments in forestry in­no­va­tion through fund­ing for re­search and de­vel­op­ment un­der­taken through For­est and Wood Prod­ucts Australia. In 2016– 17, an in­vest­ment of over $5.6 mil­lion in match­ing fund­ing has been made in re­search that will ben­e­fit all as­pects of the forestry in­dus­try and the broader Aus­tralian com­mu­nity.

The Coali­tion’s com­mit­ment to 20 year rolling ex­ten­sions of the Re­gional For­est Agree­ments (RFAs) was re­alised for the Tas­ma­nian RFA in Au­gust this year. The Prime Min­is­ter and Premier of Tas­ma­nia jointly signed and an­nounced the ex­ten­sion in Launce­s­ton and were de­lighted to sup­port this ‘re­new­able and sus­tain­able’ in­dus­try. The in­de­pen­dent review for the Western Aus­tralian has been com­pleted and public con­sul­ta­tion on the Vic­to­rian and New South Wales RFAs is be­ing un­der­taken. The en­gage­ment of stake­hold­ers in the review, im­prove­ment and ex­ten­sion of th­ese agree­ments is vi­tal to en­sure they con­tinue to be ro­bust and fit for pur­pose.

In Au­gust, I an­nounced the govern­ment had ap­proved a new Plan­ta­tion Forestry Method un­der the Emis­sions Re­duc­tion Fund. This recog­nises the im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion this sus­tain­able in­dus­try can make to re­duc­ing our car­bon emis­sions, and meet­ing our com­mit­ments un­der the Paris cli­mate agree­ment.

To­gether with state and ter­ri­tory min­is­ters, I re­leased a Forestry Min­is­ters State­ment in Septem­ber that clearly il­lus­trated our strong sup­port for Australia’s forestry in­dus­tries. This state­ment recog­nises the sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion that the forestry in­dus­tries make to re­gional Australia both to­day and into the fu­ture.

In ad­di­tion to sup­port­ing our do­mes­tic for­est in­dus­tries, our govern­ment is com­mit­ted to tack­ling the trade in il­le­gally logged timber. In Oc­to­ber, I an­nounced that we are im­prov­ing our il­le­gal log­ging laws by cut­ting red tape for our im­porters and pro­ces­sors and slash­ing reg­u­la­tory costs by more than $4 mil­lion an­nu­ally. Th­ese changes will ac­knowl­edge that timber prod­ucts cer­ti­fied un­der the For­est Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil (FSC) and Pro­gramme for the En­dorse­ment of For­est Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion (PEFC) schemes meet our re­quire­ments for best prac­tice for­est man­age­ment and chain of cus­tody stan­dards

Look­ing ahead, the ‘soft start’ to our il­le­gal log­ging laws close at the end of this year and from 1 Jan­uary 2018 busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als must com­ply with the due dili­gence obli­ga­tions or face fi­nan­cial penal­ties. I en­cour­age all im­porters and do­mes­tic pro­ces­sors to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with their obli­ga­tions.

I would like to end on one of the high­lights of 2017. Many of you would re­call the an­nounce­ment made by Prime Min­is­ter Turn­bull about the de­vel­op­ment of a new govern­ment plan for Australia’s re­new­able timber and wood-fi­bre in­dus­try. This state­ment, made dur­ing the key­note ad­dress the Aus­tralian For­est Prod­ucts As­so­ci­a­tion gala din­ner in Septem­ber, high­lights the Coali­tion’s com­mit­ment to Australia’s forestry sec­tor, now and into the fu­ture. The plan will build on the im­por­tant re­port de­vel­oped by the For­est In­dus­try Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil. We will be un­der­tak­ing tar­geted con­sul­ta­tion over the next four months and I’m look­ing for­ward to de­liv­er­ing the plan in the sec­ond half of 2018.

I look for­ward to 2018 be­ing an even bet­ter year for our sec­tor and wish you all ev­ery suc­cess.

■ Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull.

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